And one?: Syracuse football commit Custis also considers walking on to basketball team

Illustration by Andy Casadonte | Art Director

Jamal Custis was recruited to play football at Syracuse, but he may be trying to walk on to the basketball team as well.

Jamal Custis stands 6 feet 6 inches tall, but his size might not be his biggest weapon.

Custis’ profile says the wide receiver runs a 4.37-second 40-yard dash.

“What’s deceiving is how fast he actually is,” said C.J. Szydlik, the head football coach at Ss Neumann-Goretti High School in Philadelphia. “We have some kids who can run, and he’s the fastest kid we have. He gets in stride, you can’t catch him.”

A three-star recruit, according to, Custis made a verbal commitment to Syracuse’s football program on his Twitter account on Sept. 8. But his quickness is not solely for the football field. His rare combination of size and speed has allowed him to excel on the hardwood, as well. Custis told The Philadelphia Inquirer that pursuing a spot on SU’s basketball roster is something he’d “like to do.” Szydlik thinks Custis would give it a shot as a two-sport athlete at SU, if the opportunity were presented to him.

Custis also told the South Philly Review in a story published Thursday that he “has not ruled out” trying to walk on to Jim Boeheim’s program, but he did not return numerous phone calls for this story.

Also a member of Neumann-Goretti’s varsity basketball team, Custis would be the third Saints hoops’ product to play for Syracuse in the last three years, after Scoop Jardine and Rick Jackson. Custis earned offers from Southern Methodist in both football and basketball in addition to his football offers from Pittsburgh, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rutgers and Central Florida.

“He’s got size, he’s got some natural strength to him,” said Carl Arrigale, head basketball coach at Neumann-Goretti. “The most important thing is he’s a terrific kid. That would be a good addition to the (basketball) team, I’m sure.

“But I don’t think he’s going to win them an ACC championship. He’s got a better shot of doing that on the football field than the basketball court. He could be a scholarship basketball player, just not at that level.”

Two-sport athletes are a rarity in college sports today. But Syracuse has had its fair share of multi-sport athletes, from football and lacrosse Hall of Famer Jim Brown’s dabbling in basketball and track and field, to quarterback Donovan McNabb’s two years as a walk-on for the Orangemen basketball squad in the late 1990s.

Neumann-Goretti junior varsity basketball coach Mike Casey said he’s “99 percent” sure Custis will start for the Saints’ varsity basketball team this upcoming season after coming off the bench a year ago.

“He is your typical, run-the-floor big guy,” Casey said. “He’s not too much of a post-up big guy, but what he does well is run the floor. He gives us a physical presence.”

But like Arrigale, Casey believes Custis has more potential in football than in basketball.

In a football recruiting video on YouTube, Custis’ highlights show off his knack for breaking tackles in the open field and using his breakaway speed to coast into the end zone. It also features his ability to elevate and make difficult catches despite tough coverage by the defensive backs he towers above.

“He’s a matchup nightmare, for sure,” said Szydlik, the Neumann-Goretti football coach.

That nightmare became a reality for Chester (Pa.) High School on Friday. Custis, who faced constant double teams, racked up three touchdowns — two of them on plays 50 yards or longer — and broke his own Neumann-Goretti record with 185 receiving yards in the Saints’ 35-6 blowout win over the Clippers.

Standing taller than each of the Orange’s current and incoming wide receivers, the 225-pound Custis also lines up at free safety for Neumann-Goretti. But Szydlik said the receiver could beef up an additional 40 pounds once he arrives at Syracuse and begins the Orange’s workout regimen.

Whether Custis pursues a career on the basketball court, Szydlik is certain Syracuse will not be disappointed with him.

“He’s just a great kid. He’s such a leader and leads by example with his work ethic,” Szydlik said. “He’ll be truly missed, I can tell you that.

“He’s one of the most personable people you’re going to meet. He’s a humble kid and I’m looking forward to it, too. It should be a fun couple of years.”


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